Seniors have been making the 750-mile trek to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina in the days before Commencement for several decades — and wildfires are not deterring members of the class of 2009 from setting off on their own pilgrimage.
Wildfires broke out at Myrtle Beach on Wednesday, causing the evacuation of 2,500 residents and demolishing more than 70 homes. On Sunday, officials said the fire remained 85 percent contained but expressed worries that an expected wind shift to the southwest Monday could threaten other houses inland. The most densely packed tourist stretch of the region on the coast has been spared by the fires so far.
The nine seniors interviewed said they remain unconcerned about the possibility of the fires spreading to more commercial areas.
“I’m more concerned about getting in a car and driving there and driving back than I am about wildfires, ” Darius Dale ’09 said.
The fires have been burning in primarily forest and swamp areas, though two residential developments have also been destroyed, said Marion Edmonds, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. While a shift in wind patterns could direct the wildfires toward the more populated areas closer to the beach, on the eastern side of the Intercoastal Waterway, Edmonds said this is unlikely to happen.
“Nothing in the weather forecast that would indicate a movement in that area,” Edmonds said. “But it would be premature for me or anyone to make any guarantees.”
Plumes of smoke will be the worst effect of the wildfires on the tourism district, Edmonds said, though he said it could take up to two weeks to fully contain the fires
For several seniors, this seems to be enough reassurance. Students interviewed said the Myrtle Beach fires have not altered their vacation plans.
Peter Boisi ’09, for his part, said that nothing would stop him from heading to Myrtle Beach on May 8.
“I plan on partying all day on the beach, and if the beach is on fire I will move into the water,” Boisi said. “I’m pretty sure that can’t catch fire.”
Representatives for the popular night club The Spanish Galleon — often called “Spanish Toad’s,” referring to the York Street club — and the restaurant Hot Diggity Dogs said Friday that the establishments remain unaffected by the fires.
That was good news to the Yale students planning their trips down south. “As long as Hot Diggity Dogs is still standing, I will be in attendance at Myrtle,” Boisi said.
The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook through Saturday, warning that smoke lingering near and downwind from the fire sights may reduce visibility. The worst conditions are expected at night as temperatures cool and the atmosphere stratifies, the service said.
The Associated Press contributed reporting from Conway, S.C.